Recent research shows that biomimetic approaches can help with the development of sophisticated, high-performance textiles. A team of researchers from Ithaca, N.Y.-based Cornell University and Woods Hole, Mass.-based Marine Biological Laboratory have borrowed inspiration from cephalopods, such as octopus, in devising camouflage materials. A nonwoven textile material was used in conjunction with elastomeric silicone membranes in developing a structure that enables papillae-like structures, similar to those found in octopus.
Scientists took clues from the octopus’ morphology to develop synthetic structures which can transform quickly from two-dimensional into three-dimensional shapes, which adapts well with its environment, similar to what an octopus does in real-life situations.
The nonwoven textile material is flexible but not stretchable, and it has a hierarchical structure which enables the stretchable membrane to assume three-dimensional shapes. This is similar to what happens with the papilla in octopus. The textile structure helps with inflating and stretching the elastomeric membranes.
According to researchers, the hierarchical structure, with the help of pneumatics, will enable the 3D shapes to happen, which otherwise is not possible. Such a biomimetic approach may one day help with a better design of stretchable sportswear, and protective and camouflage suits.
The work has appeared in a recent issue of the journal Science, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Seshadri Ramkumar, PhD, FTA (Honorary), is a professor in the Nonwovens & Advanced Materials Laboratory at Texas Tech University, Lubbock.